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By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ashton Kutcher may be best known for his goofier comedy roles in "That '70s Show" and "Two and a Half Men," but the actor takes a rare dramatic turn in new film "Jobs" as visionary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Kutcher, 35, who bears a strong physical resemblance to a young Jobs with his wavy dark hair, brown eyes and five o'clock shadow, told Reuters that as a fan of Jobs' work, he was surprised when learning details about the Apple CEO's life.
"When I read the script, Steve was a guy that I really admired, and he was not always being shown in the best light, and I was a little taken aback. I really admire who he is and what he's done. I want to in some ways protect the legacy of a guy that I admire," Kutcher said.
"I also had the challenge of playing a guy who very much is still in the zeitgeist ... I had to play the guy that became the guy that everybody remembers," he added.
"Jobs," directed by Joshua Michael Stern and out in theaters on Friday, outlines 30 defining years of Apple's co-founder, who revolutionized the way people listen to music with the iPod and home computers with the Apple Macintosh.
Jobs, who helped build Apple Inc into one of the world's most recognizable brands, died in 2011 aged 56 after battling pancreatic cancer.
The film chronicles Jobs' life from the year he dropped out of college in 1973 to the inception of Apple Computer Company with his friend Steve Wozniak three years later and Apple's subsequent rise to the forefront of the technology industry.
It also touches on aspects of Jobs' personal life, such as his rocky relationship with ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, played by Ahna O'Reilly, and his initial refusal to accept paternity of their daughter, Lisa.
"We didn't shy away from being honest about Steve Jobs' gifts and being honest about Steve Jobs' faults," Kutcher said.
"We tried to tell the story that did justice insomuch as showed what his contribution was and also didn't shy away from showing that aspects of Steve Jobs that weren't so wonderful and beautiful and sexy," he added.
CONVEYING INTELLECT, IGNORING CRITICS
Kutcher has gained gravitas in Silicon Valley by investing in startups, such as social networks Skype and Foursquare with his venture capital fund A-Grade Investments.
He saw similarities between himself and Jobs, both as college dropouts with "an appreciation for art and technology."
But the actor, who studied Jobs' mannerisms, diet and gait for the role, said he found challenges in conveying the computing trailblazer's intellect.
"Steve Jobs is a lot more intelligent than I am, so playing a guy that's that brilliant, I was really afraid of undermining his brilliance with my performance," the actor said.
After "Jobs" premiered at Sundance Film Festival in Utah earlier this year, Kutcher received mixed reviews for his performance as the tech innovator.
Variety film critic Justin Chang said that while Kutcher carried a physical resemblance to Jobs, "the illusion never fully seizes to hold." The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer Justin Lowe said Kutcher "goes beyond" the physical resemblance to Jobs to "faithfully re-create ... physical mannerisms."
Kutcher said he didn't "care about critics," and instead found encouraging words with Apple veterans, who had worked closely with Jobs.
"We showed the film to the original Macintosh team. Their review was probably the most valuable one that I listened to ... A couple of them came up to me and said 'Thank you for giving us two more hours with Steve.' And that moved me and made me feel good about the work that we've done," the actor said.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Lisa Shumaker)